Finding the Problems
“If you like things easy, you’ll have difficulties; if you like problems, you’ll succeed.” – Laotian proverb
Does Extension and Outreach need an “easy” button? It seems to work for Staples. You can download an easy button for your desktop from the Staples website. You even can order your own talking easy button so you can hear “that was easy” at any time. An easy button certainly may come in handy for ordering ink and toner cartridges, but for preparing and delivering our educational programs? Not so much.
Extension and Outreach often has prided itself on being a problem solver. We’ve said we solve problems or we help Iowans solve problems. It used to be easy. Perhaps there used to be fewer problems or perhaps we solved the easy problems first and just left the tough ones. Most education was based on this type of model as well — solving problems. If train A leaves the station at 6:00 heading east, and train Y leaves a station 50 miles away heading west…
This type of model is based on knowing things. And Extension and Outreach has always been very good at knowing things. Today there is so much information out there it’s a bit harder to keep up. People grasp at quick solutions before understanding what the real problem is.
If you think of it that way, it may not be that we need problem solvers, so much as problem finders. We are engaging with problems to which even our researchers may not know the answers or taking on the “unknown unknowns,” as Ewan McIntosh says. Bottom line: You have to understand the issue you’re dealing with before you can find an accurate solution. This is a skill we must cultivate in ourselves and in our clients.
When we focus on providing access and building capacity, then Iowa State education and research can benefit Iowans quickly and effectively — and Iowans can inform the evolving research. Together we can find the best solutions — after we find the right problems. See you there.